The House Commerce Committee met on Friday with representatives from higher education and Advance Vermont, at the invitation of Chairman Marcotte, to discuss alternatives to higher education as a pathway to Vermont's workforce.
Tom Cheney (Executive Director, Advance Vermont)
Jill Irvine (Director of Professional and Continuing Education, University of Vermont)
Maureen Hebert (Employer Partnership Coordinator, University of Vermont)
Jayshree Bhat (Associate VP of Workforce, Community, and Economic Development; Vermont State University)
Tiffany Walker (Senior Director of Workforce Education, Community College of Vermont)
Ryan Dulude (Financial Aid Director, Community College of Vermont)
Cheney explained that his organization is the only one focused on assisting Vermonters in finding which secondary education pathways would be best for them. As the company helps Vermonters become employed it is also supporting the needs of Vermont's employers to have a skilled workforce. Advance Vermont closes the gap for low income, disabled, BIPOC and others in need and to change to narrative of technical education.
One primary focus of theirs is MyFutureVT which is Vermont's only free online hub for career and education resources. Their goal is having not less than 70% of working age Vermonters hold a credential of value by the end of 2025. These credentials could lead where possible to a degree, or licenses verified by a 3rd party acknowledging the student’s skills and competencies and promoting stackable and transferable credentials.
Advance Vermont established four policy priorities:
- Promote awareness of career pathways and the value of postsecondary education and training.
- Increase completion of postsecondary education and training programs by ensuring Vermonters have the support they need to succeed
- Expand access to postsecondary education and training to students of all ages
- Maximize partnerships across and within sectors to adhere to state workforce development and education goals.
They support the state’s workforce development by:
- Illuminating career and educational pathways, resources and support for students, the unemployed, mid-career workers and navigators through MyFutureVT
- Bringing credential transparency to programs to Vermont for the benefit of students, workers, employers, education and the state
- Providing expertise and capacity to regional workforce and attainment efforts.
Act 183 directed $150k to the organization to do the work within the Vermont Credential Transparency Project.
Irvine was up next, sharing that continuing education is the longest running of UVM’s programs. It has changed over the years to meet the needs of the business community. In its current form it's one of professional and continuing education. The intent is to reach a very diverse population with a focus on learners. Their intent is to provide a variety of services to students and teachers while being nimble and making program changes as necessary. They run a summer university which is focused on pre-college so they can reach high school students to come to the university or join classes on line.
Pathways are also being established for pre-med programs which will hopefully lead to graduate certificates and master programs. They are busy building partnerships with businesses across the state. One of their biggest programs is the end-of-life doula program.
There is a real focus on the unemployed and underemployed. Students want to ‘upscale’ their skills and education, however staff is spending a lot of time in orientation to ensure folks are ready to learn especially if there has been a gap in learning. Retention of the workforce is critically important so staff wants to make sure that the student and the program are a good fit for each other.
Hebert shared that it was exiting working with such a wide sector of Vermonters. She values the role of supporting the economy and workforce through lots of partnerships with businesses throughout the state, online or in-person, trying to meet their needs. Their most robust program has been health care. Some other programs that are popular are cross-sector, like leadership or project management.
Next up was Bhat, who shared that her mission is to prepare all students for Vermont's rapidly evolving workforce. Vermont State University wants to become a career ready university and there are some very important workforce development programs and industry partnerships offered through their legacy institutions. Many apprenticeship programs are supported by several Vermont companies, with 159 students graduating this summer.
Marcotte asked whether there are programs for radio engineers – he was thinking about dispatching systems and the shortages these systems are experiencing. Bhat promised to see if they are among the 107 degree programs they offer and report back.
Walker and Dulude rounded out the testimony for the day, saying that their students are sent by their companies and are looking for industry credentials. They come in person, or in a hybrid class of in-person and on line. Also they have self-passed courses where the student sets the pace. Businesses also contract with CCV to run business classes and customize programs to meet their needs. Currently, CCV is working with Beta Technologies to run leadership programs customized for Beta.
Some examples of this include:
- Central Vermont Medical Center – supporting a ‘learn as you earn’ program using a pre-apprenticeship at CCV which includes two semesters of prerequisite courses for nursing programs.
- UVM Medical Center - Offering an LNA to RN pathway for existing UVMMC employees as they move along the nursing career pathway by providing this supported model, loan repayment, and adjusted release times during the LPN year.
- Vermont Career Advancement Project – This program seeks to build statewide systems to reduce barriers and increase access to high wage career pathways for Vermonters with disabilities. CCV currently has 31 students actively enrolled in the program with several others planning to enroll in the next two semesters.
- Prior learning assessment – one of the options available through this program is the assessment of prior learning course offered at CCV.
There are a number of other things CCV is also pursuing, including expanded apprenticeship programs, employer access days, and post-secondary programming and access for persons incarcerated in Vermont.